tv Andrea Mitchell Reports MSNBC February 9, 2010 1:00pm-2:00pm EST
right now on "andrea mitchell reports" on a snowy day in washington, can washington ever get anything done? at a white house meeting today on the jobs bill, the president put to leaders of both parties. >> the american people are frustrated with a lack of progress on some key issues and although the parties are not going to agree on every single item, there should be some areas where we can agree and we can get some things done, even as we have vigorous debates on some of those issues that we don't agree on. >> and the terrible debate over the war on terror. who is right about the interrogation of the christmas day bomb suspect? join i
joining us from the national security council, dennis mcdonough, and from the senate, arlen specter of pennsylvania. "let's move" against childhood obesity, straight from michelle obama's big launch today, white house policy adviser melody barnes and nbc news contributor tiki barber. i'm andrea mitchell live in washington. should the christmas day bomber have been read his rights? the ongoing debate goes to the heart of the president's anti-terror strategy. chuck todd live from the white house. let's talk about what's going on here. this has really been escalating. let me recap. we had kit bond the other day on our show, arguing this should never have happened, that he should never have been read his rights. >> reporter: right. >> the white house fired back, john brennan on "meet the press" this weekend and again today in "usa today." on the substance of it, the white house certainly is right. there is plenty of precedent for
the best, most effective prosecutions in the prior administration, george w. bush's, being done under the civilian, not the military procedures. >> reporter: right. >> but let's take us to where the political debate is right now. >> reporter: well, you know, exactly right. this has become so political. and what's frustrating the white house on this is that for about three weeks, they felt as if they were in a one-way fight. they couldn't fight back because they were in the middle of getting information at the time from abdulmutallab and they were just on the receiving end of what's been a political tool for the republicans because it's been very effective for them. they've seen it pop in polls. it's a pretty good talking point for them. i think what's gotten lost here is -- and i think what frustrates the white house is they don't understand why they sit there and have to defend their whole miranda rights thing when there's no evidence tha whether this has stopped -- there's no evidence that they would have gotten more information had they not
mirandized him versus mirandizihng him. look what they've gotten from abdulmutallab, they've gotten intelligence from him after mirandizing, after having him charged in the justice system. definitely all things of a political nature, but i think the other thing that's gotten lost here, there's a little bit of a mixed message from the white house. on one hand, they're pushing back on the repb cublicans on t, and you heard the president and john brennan on "meet the press" both hint that the next time they might not mirandize and might go another way. it's as if they're pushing back really hard, getting frustrated by taking this political beating they feel they've taken by republicans yet, by the way, maybe we won't do it that way next time. we don't know. we're looking into all that. they're leaving that open, leaving the impression that maybe they are willing to change poli policies and so there's a little bit of confusion and i know some democrats are frustrated by that confusion.
>> we'll get to that with dennis mcdonough in a little bit and ask him about any possible strange in white house strategy. let me ask you about what the president just talked about today in getting together with congressional leaders. bipartisan meeting at the white house, finally happens. not that it's -- it's been pretty unusual. it happened a couple weeks earlier, talking about having a smt on health care as well. with us now, steve liesman. chuck, stay with us to talk about could anything be done at a meeting such as today's? >> andrea, i'm sorry, somebody was talking in my ear during your question. could you repeat that for me? >> we're talking about the kind of meeting the president is talking about, a jobs bill. chuck, bring us up-to-date on what they discussed at the white house today and what kind of legislation they're looking at. there certainly doesn't seem to be any sign that republicans and democrats are on the same page here. >> reporter: there's already a house bill, jobs bill has already passed. what they're negotiating now is what they can get through the
senate and what can be put together through congress. basically, the senate is, i think -- the numbers i hear, they think they can get a bill that's about $80 billion, this jobs bill. it will be heavy on tax incentives for small business and for some others. the house bill, a little bit larger. i think it was $180 billion if my numbers are correct in my head there. apologies if it's not. and the white house is somewhere in between. they want something a little more robust out of the senate. but there was a lot of optimism, boehner and mcconnell both out here, saying they expect a bipartisan jobs bill to come through. the goal was to get it passed in the senate this week. i think snow-maggedon is holding that back a little bit. problem is president's day weekend. that's why there was such a rush to get it done before president's day. >> before i let you go, i want to ask steve liesman about what a jobs bill would even do. but we had this notice, this press release from john boehner
and mcconnell last night about the upcoming february 25th bipartisan health care summit. they were basically saying that the president and the white house have to disavow any intention to proceed with 51 votes with reconciliation, give up the -- give up that whole shotgun approach if they're going to sit down and get anything accomplished. is this a lot of posturing or is this really an indication that nothing is going to be done on february 25th? >> is that for me, andrea? >> sorry, chuck, i wanted to ask you about that. >> i thought that was for chuck. >> reporter: my apologies. i thought that one was for steve. >> i'm being a terrible traffic cop. >> reporter: no, no, no. i'll say this really quickly on the health care front. lot of grandstanding that's going on. look, there are some republicans privately nervous that they're not going to look good in this bipartisan summit just in the
same way what the visual looked like when you had the question time with the president and the house republicans. i think you're seeing some -- chance to lay groundwork to see what the negotiating -- to do some back channel negotiating now or even out in the press to sort of set the stage for maybe even really lower expectations for what comes out of this bipartisan health care summit. >> chuck, thanks for hanging with us. >> reporter: you got it. >> house bill was $154 billion. >> reporter: thank you for correcting me. >> no, no, we've got so many numb numbers flying around here today. steve, let's talk about the jobs bill on the house side and what could possibly come out of it. will any of this even make any difference? will it get into the system quickly enough? >> yeah, the idea -- the house bill at $180 with republicans on the senate side is a nonstarter, given the anti-deficit tenor both in the senate and probably in the country right now, that something over 100 is probably a nonstarter over on the senate side.
of course, that's more chuck's place. the idea, andrea, is to get people on the margin. people who are thinking about hiring a person or not say, you know what? it put mees over the top. does it solve the problem in this country? not even close. economists think the government ought to come in -- the requirement in what i saw, the schumer bill, along with orrin hatch of utah, tax credit that you hire someone who has been out of work 60 days or longer and the thinking there is that the private sector will have a very hard time dealing with the long-term unemployed. the number of people that have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer in this country. it is massive. that requires a whole retraining. private sector, incentive to hire longer term unemployed might be an intelligent place for government to come in and provide a tax incentive. >> steve liesman, thank you.
thank you for your patience with me today. >> i'm sorry about that. >> trying to get everybody on track. no. always great to see you. now joining us from the white house, dennis mcdonough and national security council chief of staff, deputy national security adviser. thank you, dennis. thanks for being here. >> reporter: nice to be here. >> snowy day. switching chuck out and you in and all that. let's talk about what has been going on. kit bond went after you all on our show last tuesday. let's play a little bit of that. i want to give you a chance to respond. >> okay. >> we could have learned a lot more from abdulmutallab, the underpants bomber, if they had not mirandized him after talking to him only 15 minutes. they needed to question him with the full time to study up on other intelligence information available and get that information. >> okay, dennis. your turn, sir. >> well, thanks, andrea. i really appreciate the opportunity to be with you this afternoon. look, the bottom line is, i think worry just going to keep
pressing away at this. it's really hard for us, frankly, to focus on the politics of this. we've got bigger responsibilities, frankly, and those responsibilities include keeping this country safe. so, what we did and what those fbi agents did on the front lines is exactly what they've been doing for a decade now, which is fighting this war against al qaeda, doing it very, very effectively, doing it at an extensive risk to themselves. we think they did the right thing and we'll continue to press on that issue as we press ahead here against the al qaeda forces in yemen and against al qaeda forces worldwide. look, just like after the super bowl the other morning, i bet a lot of people were wondering halfway through the game weather sean payton should have called that fourth and goal. he looked like a pretty courageous leader. so we're not going to get too tied up in the monday morning quarterbacks here, just keep pressing forward on the target that we have. that's to keep the american
people safe. >> by the beginning of the third quarter with the on-sidekick. but let's talk about the other criticisms. kit bond and pete hoekstra and some others have said john brennan's claims on "meet the press" and in "usa today" about having been warned, brennan never told me, said kit bond, about plans to mirandize the christmas day bomber. if he had, i would have told him the administration was making a mistake. it's absurd to try to blame congression leaders for the dangerous decision athat gave terrorists a five-week head start. he said it wasn't on a secure line and that while telling them that the bomber was in fbi custody, they didn't make it clear to them that he was being given his rights. first of all, is it your contention they should have known that automatically, that that was obvious? >> andrea, i was in very close contact with john that night, throughout the course of the day
on christmas day. the president made it clear to us that we bring the congressional leadership into the loop on this matter, wanted to make sure they were aware of the steps we were taking, aware of the threat the country faced because we knew we would need them along the way here as well. frankly, congress has a big role to play in this. over the course of many years, you've seen congress playing that role, often times questioning these decisions. what you heard john say on the show on your network on sunday was, hey, it's time to end kind of this -- all the politicians of washington trying to second guess these decisions. as it relates to the call on christmas night, john made it very clear to them what we knew and made it clear he was in fbi custody and congressional leadership knows that every other single instance of terrorists being taken care of on our shores here have led to a similar course of action. so, insofar as they weren't
aware that it wasn't going to be a similar course of action, i can't verify that. i do think it was important we bring them along on this. frankly, we'll need congress not only not second guessing the resources we take but on winning this war. >> john brennan seemed really fed up with the accusations and went after some of the senators and congress people by name, unusual for a career intelligence guy. some of us certainly, michael isikoff, was on our show yesterday, thought that was a really unusual development. was that a deliberate signal from the white house that you guys are going to play hardball with critics on the hill? >> i don't think he went after anybody by name, just stating the facts. facts are that he did reach out to those leaders at the president's direction to understand what was happening. you have experienced counterterrorism professionals across the government who are doing -- undertaking these operations at great personal sacrifice. frankly, in many instance at
great risk to their own safety. what you heard john voice there was not only deep appreciation for everything that they do, the intelligence professionals, our military, law enforcement professionals every day, but some exasperation with the willingness here in washington to turn everything into a political football. so, what we're going to do, as i said, is keep our eye on the target here, keeping the country safe. we'll let somebody else take care of the politics. that's their job. we know they want to get re-elected. we want to keep the country safe and we'll keep looking for opportunities to work with them to do that. >> i have to ask you about iran. iran told the u.n. it will start enrichingure yanium to 20%, bringing it up to weapons grade. what is the threat here? does it really set back your engagement overtures and what are you going to do if china keeps blocking tougher sanctions? >> i think that it's not accurate to say china is blocking tougher actions. the course of our efforts with china as it relates to north korea, for example, we've put in
place one of the most unprecedented and strong sanction regimes. >> they've really been resisting on iran. >> as it relates to north korea, they showed they wanted to come along with us. we think those conversations as it relates to iran will lead to the exact same thing. iran took steps as they did yesterday and today, they demonstrate to the world community that they're not interested in living up to their responsibilities. that makes it, frankly, all the more easier for us to make our case. at the end of the day, this isn't about china doing us a favor or doing iran or anybody a favor. this is about everybody recognizing it's not in our interest to have a nuclear iran in the heart of the middle east. that's exactly what we've been driving at. and that's what we'll continue to do. >> are you expecting big demonstrations this week on the anniversary of the iranian revolution? >> you might have seen an unprecedented statement from the united states as well as the 27 european countries. laying down a bit of a marker ahead of the anniversary on the 11th of the establishment of the
islamic republic of iran, laying down a marker that we believe that iran has international obligations to respect the rights of iranian people to be heard, to peacefully protest. and i think as you heard the president say when he got the nobel peace prize, it's telling when a country is more afraid of the aspirationings of its own people than it is of the power of its neighbors or of other countries. so, we'll be watching to see what happens on thursday, but we do believe that iran has international obligations on nuclear issues as well as human rights issues and we'll expect them to live up to those obligations. >> thank you very much, denis mcdonough. maybe we can talk to you on thursday or someone from the white house. we expect it will be a very important day, indeed. >> thank you. >> we appreciate it. arlen specter on the growing debate over how to handle terror suspects in the u.s. first lady michelle obama launching her campaign to fight childhood obesity. white house domestic policy
adviser melody barnes joining us. low in fat and cholesterol, heart healthy levels of sodium, and taste you'll love. guy: mmmm! chef: we're kind of excited about it. announcer: campbell's healthy request. i'm just a skeptic so i don't necessarily believe that anything is going to work but i was like, hey, this actually works. (announcer) only rogaine foam is shown to regrow hair in 85% of guys. i'll check it out and i'm like, nice. (announcer) rogain foam. stop losing. start gaining.
the debate over the obama administration's handling of terror suspects is intensifying, as we have been noticing, the whole debate over the christmas day bomber, should he have been read his rights? joining us now, arlen specter, former chair of the intelligence committee. senator specter, thank you. the reason i wanted to talk to you, you are a relatively independent, even a new democrat. you have experience as a prosecutor and you always speak, you know -- really speak straightforward on these subjects. i want to hear what you have to say about this whole crazy debate over, you know, should he
have read his miranda rights, should he have not been read his miranda rights? what do you, as a former prosecutor, say? >> i do not think he should have been read his rights. the most important thing is to find what information he has in order to prevent future terrorist attacks. after the questioning is finished, then the attorney general can make a decision whether to try him in a civil court or in a military commission. whatever statements he makes would be inadmissible in a civil court if they are admissions or confessions, but he could still be tried before a military commission. if the attorney general thinks he can prove his case in a civil court without using the admissions or confessions, then i think that is preferable, if he can make his case there. i think that shows the world the quality of our judicial system and how fair it is.
but the most important thing is to get whatever information he has to prevent future terrorist attacks. more important than his conviction. >> you're basically saying that when john brennan briefed the republican leaders, republican and democratic leaders on christmas night and told him he was being held in fbi custody that they should not have automatically assumed that he was being mirandizing, as the white house is suggesting number one, and, number two, did he not have to be mirandized within 15 minutes? >> he does not have to be given his miranda warnings. the consequence of not giving his miranda warnings is that if he makes a confession you cannot introduce it into evidence in a trial, which is in a regular article iii court. >> but you can act on the intelligence that you're
getting. >> you act on the intelligence. >> right. >> then you make a decision as to whether you have enough evidence without the admissions or confessions -- you could convict that guy without anything he said by way of an admission or a confession. so, you could still try him in an article iii civil court. and if the attorney general makes that decision, that's the attorney general's decision. now, it's a little different issue as to whether the fbi automatically gives miranda warnings. i don't think they should. if that is their practice, i think they ought to rethink it when they have a terrorist, because information that the terrorist would give is more important than the conviction. and you could still get the conviction in a military commission. again, andrea, you had that guy dead to rites. >> from everything we've seen in
jane mayer's article and others, that what eric holder is saying is correct, that during the bush white house, they did better under civilian iaian versus mi in terms of getting commissions -- getting convictions, excuse me. >> the prior administration seems to have done exactly what the attorney general holder did. but, listen, whatever anybody has done by way of practice, let's focus on the core problem. you have a terrorist. he may have information. don't do anything by way of giving him miranda warnings, which would discourage him from giving that information to us. then after we get all the information, let's make an evaluation, as i did when i was d.a., as to where you can try him to convict him. if you can trial him in a civil court it makes the united states look very good. with the obama administration, our reputation in the international world has improved
markedly. so, let's try him in an article iii civil court if we can. but if we can't, you have the military commission and there, he's not entitled to constitutional rights and whatever admissions or confessions he may have made can be used against him, if you need it. on the christmas bomber, again, andrea, you didn't need it. we had him dead to rites. >> on a sad note i want to ask you about your friend, john murtha, a real veteran. he was the first vietnam veteran to be elected to congress and, of course, was also a veteran member of congress. share your thoughts. >> well, it's a terrific loss personally. i was very close to jack murtha for three decades. it's a big loss to pennsylvania, because his seniority meant a lot. he did a great deal for i don't knowstown and his congressional district.
as an appropriator, and i'm one myself, the constitution gives us authority to appropriate money and people said he gave too much to his congressional district. well, i don't think the congressman could do that. also he was a vietnam veteran, great patriot. he was a straightforward guy. when he disagreed with the way the iraq war was conducted, he spoke out very forcefully. he is a big loss to the country, andrea, especially to pennsylvania. we'll miss him a lot. >> i appreciate your coming on and thank you, on all accounts, senator arlen specter from pennsylvania. >> always good to talk to you, andrea. thank you. >> you, too. coming up, politico's jim vandehei, addressing critics who say the mainstream media is reliable, high-quality vehicles has been our first priority. ♪ in recent days, our company hasn't been living up
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white meat chicken, or sea bass and shrimp in a delicate broth, prepared without by-products or fillers. fancy feast appetizers. celebrate the moment until life shows up with hungry. or, you can follow the weight watchers plan entirely online and learn life skills that put you in charge. join for free right now and see how 31,000 food options give you options, and 1,800 recipes keep them fresh, so when life comes knocking, you can learn to live it, and lose weight and keep it off. join for free right now and get living. let's go right to the white house briefing room and the president. >> we're trying to bring some change that you can believe in. hello, everybody. >> hello!
>> i am glad to see that all of you braved the weather to be here. a little while ago, i had a meeting with the democratic and republican congressional leaders and it went very well. in fact, i understand that mcconnell and reid are out doing snow angels on the south lawn together. can you picture that, chuck? not really? the meeting did go well. and i appreciate them making the trek. we had a good and frank conversation, and it's one that i hope we can continue on a more regular basis. we all understand that there are legitimate and genuine differences between the parties, but despite the political posture i posturing that often paralyzes this town, there are many issues upon which we can and should agree. that's what the american people are demanding of us. i think they're tired of every day being election day in washington and at this critical
time in our country, the people sent us here expect a seriousness or purpose that transends petty politics. i am confident when, for example, one in ten of our fellow citizens can't work, we should be able to come together and help business create more jobs. we ought to be able to agree on providing small businesses with additional tax credits and much-needed lines of credit. we ought to agree on investments in crumbling roads, bridges and we should agree on tax breaks for making homes more energy efficient, all of which will put more americans to work. many of the job proposals that i've laid out have passed the house and are soon going to be debated in the senate. we spend a lot of time in this meeting discussing a jobs package and how we can move forward on that.
if there are additional ideas, i will consider them as well. what i won't consider is doing nothing in the face of a lot of hardship across the country. we also talked about restoring fiscal responsibility. there are few matters in which there is bipartisan agreement, at least in public, but there is partisan wrangling behind closed doors. this is what we know for sure. for us to solve this extraordinary problem that is so many years in the making it's going to take the cooperation of both parties. it's not going to happen in any other way. i'm pleased that congress supported my request to restore the pay as you go rule, which was instrumental in turning deficits into surpluses during the 1990s. i've also called for a bipartisan fiscal commission. unfortunately, this measure, which originally had received the support of a bipartisan majority in the senate and co-sponsored by senators greg,
democrats and republicans, was blocked there. i'll be creating this commission by executive order. during our meeting i asked the leadership of both parties to join in this serious effort to address our long-term deficits. when politics is put aside, the reality of our fiscal challenge is not subject to interpretation. math is not partisan. there ought to be a debate about how to close our deficits. what we can't accept is business as usual. and we can't afford grandstanding at the expense of actually getting something done. during our meeting, we also touched briefly on how we can move forward on health reform. i've already announced that in two weeks i'll be holding a meeting with people from both parties. as i told the congressional leadership i'm looking forward to a debate with plans that need to be measured against this test. does it bring down costs for all americans as well as for the federal government, which spends a huge amount on health care?
does it provide adequate protection against abuses by the insurance industry? does it make coverage affordable and available to tens of millions of working americans who don't have it right now? and does it help us get on the path of fiscal sustainability? we also talked about why this is so urgent. just this week, there was a report that anthem blue cross, the largest insurer in the largest state, california, is planning on raising premiums for many individual policy holders by as much as 39%. if we don't act, this is just a preview of coming attractions. premiums will continue to rise for folks with insurance, millions more will lose their coverage all together. deficits will continue to grow larger and we have an obligation, both parties, to tackle this issue in a serious way. now, bipartisanship depends on a willingness of both democrats and republicans to put aside matters of party for the good of the country.
i won't hesitate to embrace a good idea for my friends in the minority party but i also won't hesitate to condemn what i consider to be obstinancy that's rooted in political expedience. we talk about this as well, particularly when it comes to the confirmation process. i respect the senate role to advise and consent. for months, qualified, noncontroversial nominees for critical positions in government, often positions related to our national security, have been held up despite having overwhelming support. my nominee for one important job, head of general services administration which helps to run the government was denied a vote for nine months. when she finally got a vote on her nomination, she was confirmed 96-0. that's not advise and consent. that's delay and obstruct. one senator, as you all are aware, has put a hold on every
single nominee we have put forward, due to a dispute over a couple of earmarks in his state. in our meeting, i asked the congressional leadership to put a stop to these holds in which nominees for critic beal jobs are denied a vote for months. surely, we can set aside partisanship and do what's traditionally been done to confirm these nominations. if the senate does not act -- i made this very clear. if the senate does not act to confirm these nominees, i will consider making several recess appointments during the upcoming recess because we can't afford to allow politics to stand in the way of a well-functioning government. my hope is that this will be the first of a series of meetings i have with leadership of both parties in congress. we've got to get passed the tired debate that is have plagued our politics and left behind nothing but soaring debt and mounting challenges, greater hardships among the american people and greater frustrations
among the american people. those frustrations are what led me to run for president and as long as i'm here in washington, i intend to try to make this government work on their behalf. so, you know, i'm going to take a couple of questions, guys. >> after meeting with you, john boehner came out and told us the house can't pass the health care bill it wants to pass, the senate can't pass the health care bill it wants passed. why would we have a conversation about legislation that can't pass? as part of that, he said you and your white house, congressional democrats, should start over entirely from scratch on health care reform. how do you respond? >> here is how i responded to john in the meeting and i've said this publicly before. there are some core goals that have to be met. we've got to control costs, both for families and businesses but also for our government. everybody out there who talks
about deficits has to acknowledge that the single biggest drive of our deficits is health care spending. we cannot deal with deficits and debt long term unless we get a handle on that. that has to be part of a package. number two we've got to deal with -- we have to make health insurance more available to folks in the individual market. as i mentioned, in california, who are suddenly seeing their premiums go up 39%, that applies to a majority of small businesses as well as sole proprietors. they are struggling. i've got these goals. now, we have a package, as we work through the differences between the house and the senate, and we'll put it up on a website for all to see over a long period of time, that meets those criteria, meets those goals. but when i was in baltimore, talking to the house republicans, they indicated we
can accomplish some of these goals at no cost. and i said, great. let me see it. and i have no interest in doing something that's more expensive and harder to accomplish if somebody else has an easier way to do it. so i'm going to be starting from scratch in the sense that i will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals. what i will not do, what i don't think makes sense and what i don't think the american people want to see is another year of partisan wrangling around these issues, another six months or eight months or nine months worth of hearings in every single committee in the house and senate in which there's a lot of posturing. let's get the relevant parties together. let's put the best ideas on the table. my hope is that we can find enough overlap that we can say, this is the right way to move forward even if i don't get every single thing that i want.
but here is the point that i made to john boehner and mitch mcconnell. bipa bipartisanship can't be that i agree to all the things that they believe in or want and they agree to none of the things that i believe in and want and that's the price of bipartisanship, right? that's sometimes the way it gets presented. mitch mcconnell said something very nice in the meeting about how he supports our goals on nuclear energy and clean coal technology and more drilling to increase oil production. well, of course he likes that. that's part of the republican agenda for energy, which i accept. and i'm willing to move off some of the preferences of my party in order to meet them halfway. but there's got to be some give from their side as well.
that's true on health care. that's true on energy. that's true on financial reform. that's what i'm hoping gets accomplished at the summit. >> the senate bill can't pass any more? >> what i agree with is that the public has soured on the process that they saw over the last year. i think that actually contaminates how they view the substance of the bills. i think it is important for all these issues to be aired so that people have confidence in moving forward on such a significant part of the economy as health care, that there is complete transparency and all these issues have been adequately vetted and adequately debated and this gives an opportunity not just for democrats to say here is what we think we should do, but it also gives republicans a showcase before the entire country to say here is our plan. here is why we think this will work and one of the thing that is john boehner and mitch mcconnell said is that they don't think the status quo is acceptable. that right there is promising. that indicates that if all sides
agree that we can't just continue with business as usual, then maybe we can actually get something done. >> one of the reasons anthem said -- anthem blue cross says that it's raising its premiums is because so many people are dropping out of individual coverage because the economy is so bad. >> yeah. >> and that leaves people in the pool who need medical care driving up the costs. >> yeah. >> one of the reasons why businesses are not expanding right now in addition to some of the credit issues you talked about, at least according to business leaders, is they say there's an uncertainty of what they need to plan for because of the energy bill, because of health care. that's what they say. i'm not saying it's true or not. that's what they say. what do you say when you hear that? >> well, i think that the biggest uncertainty has been -- we just went through the worst recession since the great depression and people weren't sure whether the financial system was going to melt down and whether we were going to tip into an analyst recession.
let's be clear in terms of business investment over the last several years. a huge contraction. trillions of dollars of losses in people's 401(k)s, people have a lot of debt coming out of the previous decade, that they still haven't worked out. housing has been losing a whole bunch of value. so, the good news is that where we were contracting by 6%, the economy is now growing by 6%. the ceos i talk to are saying they are now making investments and i anticipate that they're going to start hiring at a more rapid clip. what i've also heard is them saying that we would like to feel like washington is working and able to get some things done. there are two ways of interpreting the issue of uncertainty. one way would be to say, you know what? we'll just go back to what we were doing before on, let's say, the financial markets. we won't have the regulations that we need. we won't make any changes in
terms of too big to fail. that will provide certainty until the next financial crisis. that's not the kind of certainty i think that financial markets need. the kind of certainty they need is for us to go ahead and agree on a bipartisan effort to put some rules of the road in place so that consumers are protected in the financial markets so that we don't have banks that are too big to fail, that we have ways of winding them down and protecting the overall system without taxpayer bailouts. that requires legislation. the sooner we can get that done, the better. the same would be true when it comes to health care. a lot of ceos i hear from say we would like you to get health care settled one way or another, but they will acknowledge that when they open up their latest invoice for their premiums and find out that those premiums have gone up 20% or 25%, that's the kind of uncertainty that also tamps down business investments. so i guess my answer would be
this. the sooner the business communities had a sense that we've got our act together here in washington and can move forward on big, serious issues in a substantive way without a lot of process turing and partisan wrangling, i think the better off the entire country will be. i absolutely agree on that. what i think is important is not to buy into this notion that is perpetrated by some of the business interests that have a stake in this, who are fighting financial reform, for example, to say, boy, we would be doing fine if we just didn't try to regulate the banks. that, i think, would be a mistake. >> just to play devil's advocate on that, a small business, let's say, not somebody who would be effected by the regulatory reform, you acknowledge a bold
agenda. a small business might wonder i don't know be how the energy bill is going to affect me, i don't know how the health care reform bill is going to affect me. i better hold off on hiring. >> the small businesses i talked to -- i've been talking to a lot of them as i've been traveling around the country over the last several months -- their biggest problem right now is that they can't get credit out of their banks. so, they're uncertain about that. and they're still uncertain about orders. do they just have enough customers to justify them do in more? it's looking better at this point. but that's not the rationale for people saying i'm not hiring. let me put it this way. most small businesses have enough customers to make a profit and they can get the bank loans required to boost their payroll, boost their inventory and sell to those customers, they will do so. okay? let's see. let's get a print guy here. david? >> you heard mcconnell talk about nuclear power, offshore drilling, free trade. that's a lot of republican stuff. >> yeah. >> is your party going to go for
that if you decide to support that kind of -- >> i think that on energy, there should be a bipartisan agreement that we have to take a both and/or approach. what do i mean by that? clean energy, solar, wind, biodiesel, geothermal, that country is going to win the race in the 21st century glebl economglobal economy. we have to move in that direction. what is also true is that gifb our energy needs in order to continue economic growth, produce jobs, make sure our businesses are competitive around the world, we're going to need some of the old traditional energy sources as we're developing these new ones and ramping them up.
so, we can't, overnight, convert to an all solar or all-wind economy. that just can't happen. we're going to have needs into these traditional sources. the question then is are we going to be able to put together a package that includes safe, secure nuclear power, that includes new technologies so that we can use coal, which we have in abundance and is very cheap, but it often is adding to our greenhouse gases. can we find sequestration technologies that clean that up? can we identify opportunities to increase our oil and natural gas production in a way that is environmentally sustainable? and that should be part of a package with our development of clean energy. and, you know, my hope is that my republican friends, but also democrats, say to themselves,
let's be practical and let's do both. let's not just do one or the other. let's do both. overtime, i think the transition will be more and more clean energy and over time fossil fuels become less prominent in our overall energy mix. we've got to do both. >> how confident are you that there will be consensus for that double approach? >> i am just an eternal optimist so it's the right thing to do. and all i can do is to keep on making the argument about what's right for the country and assume that, over time, people, regardless of party, regardless of their particular political positions, are going to gravitate toward the truth. i'm going to take two more.
let's see. >> i just want to make sure i was getting a balance here. go ahead, chuck. what? why is everyone moaning? >> he's too good. >> iran. we got the news today that they're doing more of these -- trying to enhance this uranium even more. obviously, seeing secretary gates today in paris quoted as saying basically the dialogue seems to be over, now the question is sanctions. where are we on sanctions? how close is this? i know you have sort of an end of the year deadline when you stood up there with nikolas sarkozy and gordon brown. >> it's moving along fairly quickly. i think that we have bent over
backwards to say to the islamic republic of iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation about how they can align themselves with international norms and rules and reenter as full members as the international community. the most obvious attempt was when we gave them an offer thate conversion of some of the low enriched uranium they already have into the -- into the isotopes they need for their medical research and for hospitals that would serve up to a million iranian citizens. they rejected it. although one of the difficulties of in dealing with iran over the
last several months is it is not always clear who is speaking on behalf of the government and we get a lot of different mixed signals. but what's clear is that they had not said yes to an agreement that russia, china, germany, france, great britain and the united states all said was a good deal and that the director of the iaea said was the right thing to do and iran should accept. that indicates to us that despite their posturing that their nuclear power is only for civilian news, that they, in fact, continue to pursue a course that would lead to weaponization and that's not acceptable to the international community, not just the united states. so what we have said from the start is we are moving on duel tracks. if you want to accept the kinds
of agreements with the international community that lead you down a path of being a member of good standing, then we welcome you. if not -- >> by deciding to do what they did -- >> i'm getting there. if not, then the next step is sanctions. they have made their choice so far. although the door is still open. what we are going to -- be working on over the next several weeks is developing a significant regime of sanctions that will indicate to them how isolated they are from the international community as a whole. >> what do you mean by sanction? >> meaning that there is going to be a -- >> u.n. and some -- >> we are going to be looking at a variety of ways in which countries indicate to iran that their approach is sun acceptable. the u.n. will be one aspect of that broader effort. >> china will be there?
>> well, the -- we are confident right now that the international community is unified around iran's misbehavior in this area. how china operates at the security council as we pursue sanctions is something we are going to have to see. one thing i'm pleased about is to see how forward leaning the russians have been on this issue. i think they clearly have seen that iran hasn't been serious about solving what's a solvable dispute between iran and international community. all right. i'm going to make this the last question. yes. >> me? >> yes. >> thanks for doing this. it has been a while. health care, asking for the february 25th session will include economists and the public interests groups and people supporting your side. will it just be the members of
congress? and on anthem blue cross, do you have the authority to tell a private company they can't charge? how will you stop them? >> i don't have the authority, as i understand it. i can't simply issue an executive order lowering everybody's rates if i could i would have done that already and saved myself a lot of grief on capitol hill. that's why reform is so important. that's why the status quo is unacceptable. but, you know, there is no shortcut in dealing with this issue. you know, i know the american people get frustrated in debating something like health care because you get a whole bunch of different claims being made by different groups and different interests. it is a big complicated, tough issue. but what's also true without
some action on the part of congress, it is very unlikely that we see any improvement over current trajectory. the current trajectory is premiums keep going up 10%, 15%, 30%. the current trajectory more and more people are losing health care. i don't know if people noted. everybody was saying that the president's trying to take over -- government's takeover of health care. i don't know if anybody noticed but for the first time this year, you saw more people getting health care from government than you did from the private sector. not because of anything we did. but because more and more people are losing their health care from their employers. it is becoming unaffordable. that's what we are trying to prevent. we want people to be able to get health care from their employers. but we also understand that you have to fix the system so that people are able to get it at affordable rates and small businesses can afford to give
their employees insurance in an affordable sxrat that's not happening now. to your question about the 25th. my hope is that this doesn't end up becoming -- being political theater as i think some of you have phrased it. i want a substantive discussion. you know, we haven't refined exactly how the agenda will go that day. we want to talk with both the democratic and republican leaders to find out what they think would be most useful. i do want to make sure that there's people like the congressional budget office, for example, considered nonpartisan and who can answer questions. in this whole health care debate, i'm reminded of the story told about senator moynihan who was, i guess, in an argument with one of his cole sxeegs his colleague was losing the argument. so he got flustered and said to
senator moynihan, well, i'm entitled to my own opinion. senator moynihan said you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts. i think that's the key to a successful dialogue on the 2th around health care. let's establish common facts. let's establish what the issues are, what the problems are, and let's test out in front of the american people what ideas work and what ideas don't. and you know, if we can establish that factual accuracy about how different approaches would work, then i think we can make progress. it may be that some of the facts that come up are ones that make may party a little bit uncomfortable. so, you know, if -- if it is established that by working
seriously on medical malpractice, tort reform, we can reduce some of those costs, i have said from the beginning of this debate i would be willing to work on that. on the other hand, if i'm told that that is only a fraction of the problem, and that is not the biggest driver of health care costs, then i'm also going to insist, okay, let's look at that as one aspect of it but what else are we willing do? this is where it gets back to the point i was making earlier. bipartisanship cannot mean simply that democrats give up everything that they believe in, find the handful of things that republicans have been advocating for and we do those things, and then we have bipartisanship. that's -- you know, that's not how it works. you know, in -- in any othe